CHARLOTTE, N.C. – AT&T (NYSE: T) has added cell phone capacity to areas surrounding five North Carolina colleges as it over time implements network upgrades toward so-called 4G wireless broadband.

The company announced Tuesday that it added broadband capacity for the campuses of Duke University, East Carolina University, North Carolina State University, the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, and the University of North Carolina Charlotte.

“We are rolling out our HSPA+ 4G service in Charlotte and Raleigh this year,” a spokesperson for AT&T told WRAL Tech Wire. “Customers in both cities already are receiving the service in some areas, which might include schools on the list.”

HSPA+ refers to the technology AT&T chose for its fourth generation network.

“To further clarify, to get to HSPA+ service, we’re adding enhanced backhaul to sites that are currently providing 3G service.,” the spokesperson added.

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The company says it added the capacity to support some of its heaviest users and improve the performance of their devices.

“We realize the important role mobile broadband plays in the lives of people today, especially students who use tablets and netbooks in their classes,” said Cynthia Marshall, AT&T’s president in North Carolina. “That’s why we’re continually investing in our local wireless network, to deliver the most advanced mobile broadband experience.”

The North Carolina improvements are part of the company’s plan to invest roughly $20 billion this year in its wireless and wireline networks.

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